It has been an up and down last couple of years for Kristian Whatley.
2011 was the up when he finished second in the MX1 British Championship, while 2012 was the down after a year of everything going wrong.
When Kristian is on form he makes it look easy with a smooth relaxed riding style that is slightly reminiscent of the recently retired Kevin Windham. But last season that effortless style seemed to have vanished and everything looked hard work.
Thankfully the talented Englishman is back to his best and also back with his 2011 team. After a third place at the first British Championship at Fatcat, Kristian is in prime position to go for his first British title.
The result has given Whatley a boost of confidence and forced him to up his goals for 2013. He loves the bike, the team and is ready to show his considerable potential again this season.
MX Vice spoke to Kristian about his return to form, the 2012 season and his ability to pick unique lines on the track.
Starting the season on the podium was a pretty good way to make a comeback after last season!
Yea definitely, we had been doing quite a bit of testing towards it and we had one more shock to try from Steve Payne and Multitek and it definitely made the difference that weekend. It was a much stiffer shock and it didn’t blow through so much on bumps and kept it up more on top of the bumps. So I was happy with the weekend. Starts weren’t perfect but they were good enough at the time.
Coming away with a podium was that what you were hoping for at the time?
No it wasn’t what I was looking for to be honest. I was hoping for a top seven with some points in the bag. What I did last year was I went out all guns blazing and it wasn’t very good so maybe I learnt my lesson from last year. I just wanted to keep upright because too many have been getting hurt and it’s a shame because all the training you do and then you go down and get hurt.It is nice to come out with a third overall.
You are effectively second in the championship now so is your goal to win the title?
Yea, I didn’t think I would be going for the title this year I was hoping for a top three but the title is looking good. It is only the first round, it is a long season and anyone can get hurt but the title is there I think. Tanel and Barragan are going to be strong and it will be interesting to see how Brad comes back from Fatcats.
You had a pretty bad year last season. What was behind that and what have you done differently for this season.
I just kept crashing last year. I had bad injuries and never fully recovered to be honest. It just wasn’t a good year from the start of the year. I didn’t really find the perfect set up for what I liked on the Honda and it was a hard to get a set up in sand as well.
I ride totally different to everyone else and the Yamaha suits me perfectly. It is the best bike I have ever ridden really.
You are back in the same team that you challenged for the title in 2011 – is that the bike and team combination that suits you?
Yea the team is laid back but at the same time they are positive. We get things done that need to be done, there is no bullshit. It straightforward with Roy if you are straightforward with him and the world goes round in his workshop there is nothing more said.
You were saying you ride different to the other riders, I noticed at Desertmartin in 2011 you were doubling the bumps in a berm that no-one else was. Where does that line choice come from, is that instinctive or taught?
I guess it comes from the genes with my dad but you have always got to have that in your head ‘what if I double this or do this.’ The older I am getting the smarter on the bike I am getting as well I think, with time you learn about the bike and team. You also learn the tracks because it is the same tracks every year and you know it off by heart. When we go to a different track it is quite nice to be able to learn it and see where other people are fast and what they are doing.
But yea I have a few sneaky lines up my sleeve sometimes! It comes from sand riding as well, I used to ride Matchams a lot and I guess it just comes easy to me sometimes.
Talent wise you probably should be doing Grand Prix but with less British team doing it, it is harder to get an opportunity. Is that frustrating that you can’t get in there?
Yea I have always thought I am kind of a bit down in the dumps with the GPs. I have never really had the opportunity to do them but I would love to. I have never had the money for it and neither has my family. It is always something I wanted to do, I have shown the pace and it would be nice to do it for a year and see how I got on.
You were riding the Rinaldi Yamaha at the British GP and although you got hurt was it good to work with a team like that?
It was a bit of a shock at first. I woke up in the morning and done the deal that day just to ride it. I came to the GP having not ridden the bike. The first time I sat on it was Friday afternoon and I did the bars and stuff like that. I first rode it on Saturday and got used to it then. It was totally Philippaerts’ bike and it was kind of a struggle to get the suspension and everything but I made it pretty good. The bike was nice it just needed set up to how I wanted.
I had read or heard that you dad didn’t really tune your bikes when you were a schoolboy to get your corner speed up – what that true?
Yea that’s definitely true! The first time I had a tuned bike was when I was on a Honda 85 in the big wheels. My family hadn’t much money and my grandad actually bought the engine for me from MXWorld for £800. Everyone was so amazed at how well I was going at the start of that year!
But yea it definitely worked. It makes you work on a two stroke especially, because you have to go fast round the turns to go fast down the straights to keep up with everyone else! So it was definitely a good move from my dad.
I would to thank MBO Sport Yamaha, Revel bikes, Phil Lewis, Kerry, my Mum and Dad and just everyone that has helped me.
Interview by Jonathan McCready
Image by Elliot Spencer